Rumsfeld: If commanders ask for more troops, 'they'll get what they need'
ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. commanders on the ground in Iraq have not yet requested additional troops to deal with the fighting in Fallujah and Baghdad, but if they do, “they’ll get what they need,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters from NATO’s new “Transformation Headquarters” at Norfolk Naval Base, Va., Rumsfeld said that U.S. Central Command leader Gen. John Abizaid and other officers in command of U.S. troops in Iraq have not asked for more troops “at the present time.”
But he did not close the door to the possibility more troops might be called up.
U.S. military leaders, Rumsfeld said, “can make such requests at any time. … They will decide what they need, and they’ll get what they need.”
On Monday, a senior official with U.S. Central Command said that U.S. military officials are in the process of drawing up plans for an additional, rapid deployments of forces to Iraq, should the situation continue to deteriorate.
Asked whether he believes more U.S. troops should be sent to Iraq, Rumsfeld replied, “I don’t know that I would be the best judge. It takes someone who’s on the ground, in the military, and is assessing it on a daily basis.”
Rumsfeld then praised “the superb people leading our military out there,” whom he declined to “second-guess.”
The CENTCOM official also said Monday that 24,000 U.S. troops who were scheduled to leave the country in the next few weeks will stay where they are.
The delay brings the U.S. force level in Iraq up to 135,000 troops, which is “an unusually high level,” Rumsfeld said Tuesday.
He did not respond to a question regarding how long the 24,000 troops due to rotate home might be kept in Iraq.
But the additional troops, Rumsfeld noted, are being tapped to help deal with the current unrest.
“Commanders are using the excess of forces that happened to be in there because of the deployment process,” Rumsfeld said.
Regarding Fallujah, Rumsfeld said that Marines have cordoned off the city and are conducting what “will be a methodical effort to find the individuals who were involved” in last Wednesday’s killing of four U.S. contractors there.
He blamed the attack on both “terrorists,” and “former regime remnants … who are attempting to re-establish their authority and the preferred position they had over repressing the rest of the people” of Iraq.
Forces surrounding Fallujah “have photographs of a good many people who were involved in the attack against the [U.S.] individuals,” Rumsfeld said.
The Marines are “conducting raids against high-value targets and have captured a number of people over the past 36 hours,” Rumsfeld said.
“The city is isolated,” he said. “A number of people have resisted and been killed.”
Rumsfeld did not address the uprising of supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who in recent days have repeatedly engaged U.S. troops in Sadr City in Baghdad.
Also appearing at Tuesday’s press conference was NATO’s new Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who noted that 17 out of 26 NATO members have troops on the ground in Iraq.
Those troops, however, represent their own countries, not the alliance, de Hoop Scheffer noted. NATO’s only official role in Iraq is logistics support for the Polish brigade.
Rumsfeld said that although he “would like to see NATO take a larger role” in Iraq, “realistically,” he believed the alliance would enlarge its mission to Afghanistan before it would consider expanding its part in the Iraq occupation.